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BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 04 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2458

Tobacco and infections blamed for many of India’s cancer deaths

A study that mapped cancer deaths across the whole of India has, for the first time, given researchers a reasonably secure snapshot of mortality rates from specific cancers in both rural and urban areas. An estimated 556 400 Indian adults died of cancer in 2010, most of whom (71%) were 30-69 years old.

Cancers caused by tobacco dominated the picture in men, particularly oral cancers (45 800 deaths; 22.9%), whereas cancers of the cervix (33 400; 17.1%) and breast (19 900; 10.2%) were most prevalent in women. Stomach cancer was a leading cause of death from cancer in both sexes, and it was potentially linked to chronic infection with Helicobacter pylori, say the researchers.

Mortality looked similar in rural and urban communities, although the researchers noticed fourfold variations between different states. The north east of the country looked hardest hit by cancer deaths in this study. The least well educated adults had double the cancer mortality rate of the most well educated ones.

This new and detailed picture of India’s cancer burden will help focus attention on …

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